Making Sense of Sensus Catholicus (dec25ssc.htm)

December 24-31, 2004
Year-End Christmas Issue
vol 15, no. 197

Father Lawrence Smith's Christmas Message

Empty's Promise

"Hodie Christus natus est!"

A Christmas Poem
Father Lawrence Smith

    Empty is an orphan child
    whose father died before his birth.
    At his birth his mother mild
    passed on and left him heir to dearth.

    Empty is a shepherd boy
    who shepherds sheep through day and night.
    Keeping them secure is joy
    for him, but he’s the flock’s delight.

    Empty works both night and day
    beneath a master cruel and cold.
    Empty’s simple, slow, yet gay
    because for him hard work means gold.

    Not the kind that buys for slaves
    their freedom or a king his rule;
    Empty’s is the gold of knaves
    who own the wisdom of the fool.

    Thankless labor for the proud
    will cause them only grief and woe;
    humble effort by the cowed
    can in the end bring peace to grow.

    Empty doesn’t mind the pain
    his master’s tone of voice inflicts;
    near to nowhere long has lain
    the hate with which the heart conflicts.

    That his owner does not love
    moves Empty less to fists than tears;
    ever this he’s thinking of
    when conquers he his late-night fears.

    For it is that Empty yearns
    that Heaven send he knows not sure
    down to earth, and yet he burns
    for what he’s certain is secure.

    “Stars and moon and sun go by,”
    says Empty in his evening prayer.
    “Something must not ever fly
    and I sure want to fly up there.”

    “Stupid, Empty!” Master yells.
    “Just fill the manger, watch your sheep,
    listen for the cattle bells,
    and shut your mouth and let me sleep!”

    “Yes, I will, and yes, I am
    a stupid fool who needs to work
    more at watching ev’ry lamb
    and feeding cattle never shirk.”

    “Shut up, Empty! Get to bed!”
    And silent does the lad obey.
    “Empty is my thickened head,
    but how I wish the words to say

    “to my master, through his screams,
    how much he means to beasts and me.”
    Off to sleep then Empty dreams
    the visions Master can not see.

    Empty floats up high to find
    the mom and dad he never had.
    Like a color for the blind
    a newfound brother makes him glad.

    Empty always here awoke
    rememb’ring nothing but to smile
    as he wore all day his yoke
    and shouldered burdens for a while.

    Through the years and seasons long
    sleeps Empty after days and nights.
    Master never once is wrong
    in any of his empty fights.

    “Fill the manger, Empty, now!
    You moron lacking donkeys’ brains.
    Leave the sheep and feed the cow!
    You think your milk comes with the rains?”

    Empty wonders why it was
    both sheep and cattle were his charge.
    Only briefly think he does –
    most thoughts for him are much too large.

    “Anything you say at all
    I’ll do for you, O master mine.
    I am at your beck and call,
    or if you never send, that’s fine.”

    So it is as late tonight
    when chills forlornly fill the airs,
    Empty calls to mind his fright
    and at his master’s rage despairs.

    “Fill the manger, Empty, brat!
    Now where’s my whip and where’s your sense?
    After you get done with that
    I’ll tear your back a thousand rents.”

    Empty weeps, but not from hurt –
    the pain will go away again,
    and he always fixed his shirt
    as if the stripes had never been.

    Empty cries confused because
    he likes to feed the cows and ass.
    “I have many awful flaws
    but always give the cows their grass.

    “Surely, I am doing wrong
    except I’m dumb and don’t know how.
    Master needs to beat me strong
    or harm will come to lamb and cow.”

    Silent then takes Empty sleep
    within the cave he calls his home;
    warmed by cattle, ass, and sheep,
    beneath the manger, over loam.

    Looking up sweet Empty sees
    a father with his babe to cheek.
    Mother, supine, then says, “Please,
    a crib for Him, dear Empty, seek.”

    Were it not that as he lay
    asleep and tossed and turned around
    Empty emptied all the hay
    from in the manger to the ground,

    Master’s words would not occur
    to trouble Empty’s empty head:
    “Fill the manger, Empty cur,
    before you fill your lousy bed!”

    “You’re the Mother that I saw
    in all the dreams I ever had!
    I can make a bed with straw
    and that will make my Brother glad!”

    Simple Empty makes a bed
    as cows and sheep and ass look on.
    All the while a light is shed
    from stars that stop to look upon

    Light itself that now is nigh
    to those who wish to fly up there.
    Who would think a baby’s cry
    could be the sound of God at prayer?

    Shepherds, angels, magi kings –
    yes, all creation owe a debt
    for the manger Empty brings
    and in this cradle Heaven set.

    Jesus, Mary, Joseph rest,
    secure from want of food or thirst;
    Master helped us pass the test
    when Empty’s manger Christ filled first.

      see Luke 2; John 6 and 20: 1-18

Father Lawrence Smith
Sacerdos vagus
Christmas 1998. Inspired by an idea from Lorri Larsen at St. Patrick’s Parish in Iowa City

    For past articles of Making Sense of Sensus Catholicus, see 2004ssc.htm Archives
    December 24-31, 2004
    vol 15, no. 197
    Making Sense of Sensus Catholicus